Ordinary World: Education

Ordinary World: Education

EDU1: Tom Bennett, founder of ResearchED, an organisation dedicated to promoting evidence-based research in education, weighs in on the ‘traditional-vs-progressive’ teaching debate.

EDU2: A new journal called The Journal Of Dangerous Ideas, edited by prominent academics including Peter Singer has launched. The journal, which allows anonymous submissions, aims to create a platform for controversial and unorthodox ideas and arguments which would otherwise go unpublished.

EDU3: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos unveiled changes to Title IX laws, reinforcing the rights of the accused in sexual assault cases and reducing the liability of colleges and universities when investing claims of misconduct.

EDU4: Michael Petrilli of the Thomas Fordham Institute writes on the state of education form in the United States.

EDU5: Alina von Davier, a professor at Fordham University, blogs for the Brookings Institute about the role of AI technology in schools.

EDU6: An amusing blogpost by Claire Stoneman on the medicalised language of the modern school.

EDU7: The Education Writers’ Association has uncovered some surprising causes of declining enrolments in liberal arts courses in universities and colleges.

EDU8: Also from the Education Writers’ Association, a report about the explicit teaching of social and emotional learning skills at Hazel Wolf K-8 STEM School in Seattle.

EDU9: A dissenting response to the previous piece about social and emotional learning from Chester E. Finn Jr of the Thomas Fordham institute, which casts doubt on the validity of the concept of social and emotional learning.

EDU10: David Leonhardt, writing for the New York Times, argues that a college student debt relief program would merely be a welfare program scheme for the upper middle class.

EDU11: John Schilling of National Review highlights growing support for school-choice programs in the community.

EDU12: A piece from The Conversation which explores the limits of education in improving social mobility.

Scott J Davies

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Scott Davies is a freelance writer and tutor. He is currently studying a Master of Education. He is interested in education, economics, geopolitics and history. He's on Twitter and has a Medium page.

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70 thoughts on “Ordinary World: Education

  1. EDU7: You have to meet students where they are.

    That is a smart school administrator. The big, high demand schools can get away with demanding students come prepared for the school as it is, but the smaller SLACs, the ones struggling, they need to think hard about that.

    Excellent link.

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    • I don’t think this is exactly right but it is partially correct. There are plenty of SLACs that are hard to get into where you can major in arts and humanities and get a materially successful life afterwards. These schools are selective in their admissions process though.

      But I will note that a lot of international people don’t know them. Most Americans know where went to college but my girlfriend never heard of it until she met me. Her friends who were born abroad and now live here are the same.

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      • But that’s the point. If your SLAC/HBCU/etc. has no problem filling the rolls and graduating a large majority of students, then you can insist students meet the school where it is.

        However, if admissions and matriculation is a constant struggle, then perhaps you need to meet the students where they are.

        Not every school can be HYPS or a Public Ivy, and they need to stop trying to.

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  2. EDU10: The idea that the welfare state shouldn’t really help upper middle class people is really an American one. The European welfare states created after World War II were based on the idea that they need to be universal because if the middle and upper middle classes didn’t get any benefit from them, they would simply revolt against them in the ballot box. In fact NHS was more of a boon to the middle classes than the working class, many of whom had health insurance under the National Insurance plan created David Lloyd George before the First World War. There is nothing wrong with helping the upper middle class to create general political support for welfare state policies.

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    • This is part of why our system is such a mess. The upper middle class does get subsidized but very inefficiently and only through the backward and unpredictable channel of tax write-offs and returns. Since having a family I am regularly tempted to tighten my tie, pull my pants up to my arm pits, and bitch about how I get the shit taxed out of me and receive nothing substantial in return. This urge is strongest at the end of the month when I’m writing a check for daycare tuition.

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    • You can’t subsidise the middle class – governments need to fund their activities from somewhere and that somewhere is the middle class as it has the most income in aggregate.

      Broad-based benefits have advantages – benefits that abate sharply with income increase the effective marginal tax rate of the poor, which gives them a disincentive to increase their income. But if making a benefit universal make sit more popular with the middle class that is if anything a mark against it, as it is tricking people into thinking they are getting something that they aren’t.

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          • Because suburban infrastructure, unlike urban infrastructure, generally is much less efficient due to the low ration of tax revenue to cost.

            A mile of sewer that serves X taxpayers will never pencil out compared to one that serves 50X taxpayers.

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              • Here is one study
                Here is another.

                In one sense this is pretty straightforward; dense, compact development is easier to supply with services; This is why greedy developers always want higher density- it pencils out much better. One large sewer connection is cheaper than a hundred smaller ones.

                One thing that often confuses the issue is a mixing of “services” like police and fire with “infrastructure” meaning utlities and roads.

                An affluent suburb costs a lot to supply with utlities, but might consume very little in services, whereas a dense urban environment might be the opposite.
                But this has nothing to do with density; Poor suburbs cost a lot in services also. Poverty is expensive, no matter where it happens.

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                • Thanks for the study links. In one sense, I agree that if your goal is to efficiently house people within a city environment, and if the utilities have the capacity to carry the added development, density is the way to go.

                  The problem arise when there are finite capacities of utilities, and most of the land has been developed at the density that there is no surplus in utilities, on a local level, or even to the point of having to upsize mains in infrastructure dense areas for further development.

                  Services are also a issue in that unionized services tend to be higher and less flexible to city budgets that need to wrangle numbers to achieve infrastructure upgrades. What’s even worse about the unions, is that the city can push down the wages of regular city employees while the ‘union special’ employees don’t have to budge, making the burden higher in magnitude to the regulars. Very poor optics in that matter.

                  There is a lot of other stuff I don’t care to get into, but it makes me suspicious that very few people know how many pages we are into seeing Atlas shrug.

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            • Absolutely there are efficiencies. I’m questioning that 50x number for sewers, at least in the US.

              I’ll stick to my area. Population density by city has NYC first at 27,000 per square mile, Denver (properly discounting DIA) is down the list at 6,800, and my Denver suburb at just a hair over 3,000. Call it 9x. For entire metro areas, using the now-available urbanized area figures for the denominator, LA comes in first at 6,400, and Denver at 3,175. About 2x. I’m not interested in comparing Manhattan — a seriously incomplete city — to anything.

              In my suburb at least, water, sewer, storm sewer, all the pipes and pumps, treatment plants, and whatever other bits there are are paid for out of user fees. Things are set up so that the quasi-independent water and sewer department can’t receive tax moneys. We are four years into a six-year project that will leave all sanitary sewer mains with an expected life >60 years. (The primary purpose of the project is to eliminate ingress from storm sewers and runoff generally, reducing the load on the sewage treatment plant.)

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                • So, what’s the deal for the middle class? 50x density increase almost certainly means a drastic reduction in square footage. Elimination of the fenced back yard where you can dump the 3-year-old right now at no direct cost while supper gets started. For what? A sewer bill that’s 10x smaller? 2x? 1.01x?

                  I am, I think, on your side in the bigger picture. But reality dictates that the fundamental question is “Can the suburbs as we know them be made efficient enough?” And because I”m obnoxious, I point out that western suburbs have an enormous head start on that question because they are twice as dense as suburbs in the rest of the country.

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        • Chip Daniels: The mortgage interest deduction, suburban infrastructure development, most military hardware procurement, and agricultural subsidies all seem to me to qualify as middle class subsidies.

          Let me just quote someone….

          Chip Daniels: It has also been pointed out that since money trickles upwards, programs like food stamps are really subsidies to grocery and agricultural interests.

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          • Funny how that works, innit?

            Confession- I didn’t make that up- It was stolen from Will Rogers:

            …The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Mr. Hoover was an engineer. He knew that water trickled down. Put it uphill and let it go and it will reach the dryest little spot. But he didn’t know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow’s hands. They saved the big banks but the little ones went up the flue.

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            • Confession- I didn’t make that up- It was stolen from Will Rogers:

              That’s fine, but there’s still a strong element of truth there. We subsidized college educations, colleges increased their prices to capture that subsidy.

              Presumably the mortgage interest deduction is similar, builders build more expensive/bigger houses and capture the subsidy. But colleges and homes existed before (and would exist without) that subsidy, ditto aircraft engineers, ditto infrastructure in general.

              I’m not sure if I agree that infrastructure-per-person is cheaper in the city than outside it. Yes, the math intuitively makes a lot of sense… but that assumes everything is equal and it’s just more people to divide the costs. There are fewer utilities outside of a city, dirt roads are cheap.

              I’m also not sure how much this matters. Your cost of housing is San Fran is crazy expensive despite the cost savings you get from “efficient” utilities. Either there are inefficiencies of scale or utilities aren’t an important cost driver.

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      • James K: governments need to fund their activities from somewhere and that somewhere is the middle class as it has the most income in aggregate.

        I’m not sure that’s accurate anymore. I seem to recall seeing several studies showing that the top 5-10% make in aggregate more than the rest put together.

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      • Respectfully, I think this is divorced from reality. Middle class families do get some subsidies in the form of tax breaks but it’s nothing compared to the costs of childcare, education, healthcare, and other necessities of operating a modern economy. Those are all items that working families pay twice for in the sense that their income is taxed to pay for programs they mostly don’t use (poor programs for poor people) then they pay out of pocket again to procure those items for themselves and their families.

        There are plenty of countries that do this better than the US because their public services are both of good quality and middle class people can and will use them. Obviously the price for that is higher tax rates but I think a lot of people would be more willing to pay them if they were actually getting something on an obvious day to day basis.

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        • I actually forgot Social Security and Medicare. Which may indicate how invisible yet essential middle class subsidies are!

          I know that when we talk about fiscal policy, the most overlooked aspect is that we spend the most on things that are wildly popular. Which is so self-evident as to not need explaining, but it does because they just become the water in which we all swim.

          A guy who works for an engineering company on a new jet fighter program, who can afford a house because he doesn’t need to support his aging parents and is helped by the mortgage tax exemption and new freeway built to provide access to his new subdivision, will be highly insulted if you point to him as a beneficiary of government largesse.

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          • A guy who works for an engineering company on a new jet fighter program, who can afford a house because he doesn’t need to support his aging parents and is helped by the mortgage tax exemption and new freeway built to provide access to his new subdivision, will be highly insulted if you point to him as a beneficiary of government largesse.

            There is a persistent failure in the US to have a mature discussion about how all of these things work together as a system, and our system is worse for it.

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          • *Raises hand*

            This engineer, who has worked on fighter projects, can afford a home near work because of that combo of things, and can get around the area because of govt built roads, will not be insulted about being called a beneficiary of those. I think I provide value back to the govt and society in exchange, but I’m hardly ignorant of the degree to which govt programs benefit me.

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          • the most overlooked aspect is that we spend the most on things that are wildly popular

            Yes, absolutely totally agreed. It’s what makes these programs so fiscally dangerous. SS/Med, as they originally existed, weren’t a problem… but we had tremendous political pressure to expand them and wave after wave of politicians elected to do so.

            That’s what makes reform so painful.

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          • A guy who works for an engineering company on a new jet fighter program, who can afford a house because he doesn’t need to support his aging parents and is helped by the mortgage tax exemption and new freeway built to provide access to his new subdivision, will be highly insulted if you point to him as a beneficiary of government largesse.

            Yes and No.

            Yes, he’s the beneficiary of the gov.

            No, without this program, he’s not standing out in an empty field homeless. We have civilian airplanes and a ton of other uses for engineers.

            Similarly, without the mortgage deduction he still has a house, although perhaps not as big. The market is able to build freeways without the gov if we exclude eminent domain (which is not a money issue). There’s enough reason for these places that they will exist.

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          • Also the employer share of health insurance premiums, which are a tax-deductible expense for the employer, and a tax-free benefit for the employee. SS and Medicare always showed up on my paycheck stub; the foregone taxes on the health insurance premium compensation, not a sign of that. Heck, at most large employers, the employer share of those premiums is a deep dark secret.

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        • at
          Americans want Swedish level of social services on third world levels of taxation, a continuing series. A more serious difficulty for at least certain government services is that middle and upper middle class people have a very different definition of what would be a good service than many working class or poor people. Take child care as an example. Middle and upper middle class people want something like those wonderful pre-Ks that exist in Europe. Many working and poor people want something that allows the mother to stay home with the kids because that is a lot more rewarding than the type of jobs they get.

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          • Personally I think that kind of thing can be addressed and the lifestyle choice aspect is overblown. The problem I see is that the people who are doing the paying aren’t recieving an obvious service. That doesn’t mean they don’t get things (see Chip’s comment above) but the source of the benefit is either convoluted, done at the local level, or like Medicare or SS is based on a generational social contract they can’t be sure they won’t ultimately be screwed on.

            People will pay big time property taxes to live in a county with good public schools. They’re more sanguine about benefits that go to other people or might not be collectible, especially if their own benefits aren’t so great or aren’t portable.

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  3. EDU7: I don’t know if all of these are surprising but this is my cri de ceour so there is a lot for me to chew on. Here are my thoughts and theories:

    1. Culture Changes: I maintain by this theory even if it is really unpopular but I think there was a cultural change in the 1970s and early 80s which remains today and removed the prestige that used to surround liberal arts knowledge. This is for the worse. Anecdote time: A few years ago I was on an international trip. Most of the people on the trip were in their 30s but there was one older couple. The older couple were high-powered lawyers but they also had a lot of cultural and history knowledge. They enjoyed reading about history and art and culture for pleasure. They knew about unique people from this countries past including reading three-volume biographies of some of the figures. I also knew about these figures and was excited to see where some of them were jailed and/or buried. A lot of the other younger professionals looked at the older couple and me with blank stares from time to time. These were professionals with good educations but it seems their educations were all focused in such a carerist/practical matter. I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear someone from my generation or younger say: “Didn’t you get the memo? Reagan made it okay to only care about making money.”

    I do think that for generations before Gen X, there were expectations at a modicum of cultural knowledge and literacy as required for professional success. You were expected to care about such things.

    Liberal Arts majors more copacetic about money: Lots of things going on here with too many inputs. Could be lots of things. Some might have less material concerns or desires. Others could be pleasantly surprised that studying Art History did not damn them to a life of poverty. They could also just have a richer life of the mind. What is the concern of a business major? Where does it go? If you major is all about how to succeed materially and in the “rat race” then it will preoccupy your brain.

    Barrista stereotypes: This has been a right-wing talking point forever. There are plenty of barristas with arts degrees but no one ever thinks that this is because they are trying for careers in art and holding down a normal hours job while working on art is very hard. A barrista or bartending job provides some flexibility to go to auditions, to write, to paint, etc. It also is not brain exhausting work. But a lot of people just seem to go to something like “Ahhh major in business you dumb shits….”

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    • I maintain by this theory even if it is really unpopular but I think there was a cultural change in the 1970s and early 80s which remains today and removed the prestige that used to surround liberal arts knowledge.

      There was a cultural change.
      The counter-culture became the culture.

      To the extent that the counter-culture became identified with the liberal arts part of the college, the liberal arts part of the college then became the dominant cultural force.

      The problem with the culture, in general, is that the culture is, by definition, “Square”.

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      • I think this might be partially right but not fully right either. I don’t think “culture” by definition is square. There is still plenty of “high brow” culture that is downtown, bohemian, new, daring, etc.

        But I think the assault on the liberal arts is more of a right-wing phenomenon than a left-wing one.

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        • But I think the assault on the liberal arts is more of a right-wing phenomenon than a left-wing one.

          There are all kinds of assaults on the liberal arts.

          I remember in the mid-oughts that there was a huge fight between “tonality” and “atonality” in the classical music world. “Tonality” was seen as sentimental and childish.

          Then there were arguments over whether governments should subsidize orchestras in the face of declining attendance.

          Good times.

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        • Yes, though the left didn’t do itself any favors with stuff like “Theory.” I dodged that bullet, taking my English degree in a department that, so far as I know, was completely uninfected by Theory. I was vaguely aware that it existed, but as something I read about in other places, not something I was exposed to in my own classes. Had I, I can easily imagine concluding that the liberal arts is all claptrap.

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          • Julia Turner on Slate remarked that talking about theory in the English department at Brown during her freshman year caused her to run to the History Department.

            I’ve read a lot of dramatic theory but that is more stuff like Aristotle’s poetics or what theatre can and should be rather than theory as mocked today.

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    • I think Jaybird is correct here, and it is something that is still being absorbed by the culture. But one other thing happened that has had a major impact on education.

      Industrial Technology.

      Or, as it is now known, Information Technology. For a good 30-35 years, to get anywhere or do anything, you needed a good background in tech. Comp. Sci departments at universities were small and kind of a backwater before this, but they came rapidly to the forefront of needs.

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      • For a short while, nerddom was the counter-culture. I want to say that that ended at some point in the 80’s. (Historians argue over whether it was before or after “Revenge of the Nerds”.)

        I don’t know what the counter-culture was in the 90’s. I’d be interested in figuring that out, actually… (the oughts too, for that matter).

        The counter-culture now seems to be vaguely conservative in a way that it wasn’t in the 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s, though.

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      • Computer Science has increased in popularity as a major along with post-degree coding academies.* But I think they are still relatively small because they would contain a cut-off point at some point as difficulty increases. Just like organic chemistry is supposed to be the make it or break it point for pre-meds.

        I was thinking more about the rise of business or business related subjects as a major. We even have schools that developed a whole range of “business lite” majors that take out the math requirements and seemed designed for people who are not too bright but come from money and connections. A few years ago, a book called Paying for the Party explored these business lite majors at a Midwestern Public University (later revealed to be Indiana University). The book was kind of interesting in that it found a few core groups: You had rich kids without much academic interest who would take the business lite majors and then use family connections for jobs, you had middle class kids who would follow their parents into middle class professions that required studying (law, medicine, dentistry, etc). Then you had poor, first-generation college students who tried to mimic the rich kids and ended up getting screwed because they did not have the cultural or economic connections to make “travel and leisure studies” as a major work for them.

        I’m an unrepentant liberal arts fan and graduate and so are many of my friends. I’m kind of in awe and also a bit saddened by eighteen-year old kids who are more interested in running hedge funds then writing and reading poetry or novels. It strikes me as doing 18 wrong. I also wonder where my inputs went astray because business majors are much more common. What the hell was I doing differently as a high schooler than many of my peers? There is also going to be a large part of my heart that cheers on an 18 year old interested in poetry over finance models and wanting to get to Davos or Ted.

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        • Otoh, from my point of view within the techie community, a lot of the people I know are history buffs and read novels and many have avocations that are artsy. I make stained glass, for instance, and have a nice collection of books on the history of glass making, stained glass as an art form and development of the various styles in the form.

          I agree completely on ‘business lite’ majors though. After TA-ing so many freshman who got into the business college with a C- in Algebra I (the only required math course!) I am not surprised that American businesses are often such a mess. Having read books onto tape for an MBA major, my opinion of that supposedly non-lite business degree is pretty low too.

          Overall, if non-tech hiring were up to me, I’d be inclined to take a philosophy or history major over a business major.

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          • I would say Bookdragon’s observations are quite clear, especially here at the OT. Look at how many commenters are in the IT industry, but love talking about history, literature, music, art, etc. Some came out of the liberal arts, but just as many didn’t.

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            • This blog — and other blogs I have frequented — attracts people who are techies professionally but interested in those other things on an amateur basis. Does the opposite sort of thing occur? Are there blogs that attract people whose college experience was in the humanities and liberal arts who are interested in tech on an amateur basis? I think it’s a trickier question to answer than it first appears. Does a historian who now writes software for pay count? Does “tech” include debate on the philosophical questions raised by Big Data?

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              • That is something I have no idea about. It wouldn’t surprise me that due to techies being some of the first people to have regular internet access that they are the most common online, and that people with other professions gravitated online in different patterns.

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              • Does it count that I think coding academies are becoming the new law schools or j-schools?

                As in, it used to be “Oh fuck! My arts career is not working out. I need to figure out what to do. I will go to law school” used to be a safe bet for middle-class life until about 10-11 years ago.

                Now I see more people saying “Oh fuck! My arts career is not working. I need to figure out what to do. I will go to a coding academy.”

                Of course this means we can be reading about a coding bubble in 15-20 years too.

                I also know a few people who got their coding degrees at Harvard’s extension school.

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                • How successful are the people who go to coding academies? Most law schools are accredited and carry a certain amount of prestige even at their lowest levels. You also need to go to a law school in order to take the bar and become a lawyer. Most coding academies haven’t been around long enough to develop an institutional presence obviously. They also seem like more of an escape plan than a law school does.

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          • I swear as a subject strives more and more for legitimacy, it starts to lose rigor get more and more inflated with BS. I long for the day when academics start submitting utter BS papers to Business Journals in order to demonstrate just how bereft of rigor the publication (and by implication, the subject) has become.

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            • I don’t think you have to wait for academics to do that. Just look at nearly any of the corporate training/team building papers out there. Not to mention the obscene number of ‘quality’ systems with no rationally definable measures of ‘quality’ beyond ‘we followed the procedure we wrote down’.

              I’ve joked a few times about how if the procedure in the QA manual is ‘write problem on sticky note and attached to Mr. X’s computer’ that passes the audit, as long as that’s the procedure people use.

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          • There are lots of techies with interests in the arts and humanities. There are also lots of techies I’ve met who assume I’m a grade A dolt because I was a theatre major. They seemingly don’t respect anyone but other engineers.

            I don’t have a bone against people who are interested in STEM careers. I have a bone to pick with politicians and policy makers who think a relentless STEM STEM STEM and business education focus will solve every economic and job problem in the United States. I also note that a lot of non-democratic countries love focusing relentlessly on STEM because the humanities creates questioning dissenters against the status quo.

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            • I’m just going to say the disdain often goes both ways. I’ve run into more than a few English/history/theatre/etc majors who assume that having an advanced degree in engineering means I’m a cultural cretin with no awareness of anything but equations and science news. I’m okay to call for help if their computer isn’t working, but assumed to be roughly on the level of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory wrt being able to discuss art or literature.

              I do understand the frustration with the push for all STEM all the time though. My youngest is interested in both theatre and biology, and has aptitude in both. I honestly think he would enjoy acting more since he’s much more of an extrovert and something of a natural stand-up comic, so I hope the message at school and in society doesn’t push him to think that bio is his only real option.

              (yes, I know, and I’ve tried to encourage him to pursue theatre, but he’s a teenage boy and I’m his **mom**. What could I possibly know?)

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        • My perspective is that the cultural revolution of the 1960s that challenged the established canon of culture, hasn’t replaced it with something of equal authority.

          The “traditional” (for lack of a better word) cultural canon held a firm authorial voice on history, art, literature. When that was challenged, the entire concept of a fixed voice of authority was demolished.

          Without the voice of authority, the status of humanities has suffered a fall from grace.

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          • Maybe. I think there are a lot of good arguments for increasing the canon. I read Great Books by David Denby years ago. He wrote it in the 1990s and it was about him retaking Columbia’s famous Great Books freshman course, thirty odd years after he originally took it.

            The difference between taking the course in 1962 vs. 1992 is what you note though. The demographics changed and there was a rebellion about only teaching “Dead White Males.”

            I’m sympathetic to this view. There are plenty of authors who are female and/or non-Western that can be included in Great Books courses. You can teach Sapho and Murasaki Shikibou along with Plato and Aristotle and Homer.

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          • I think the established canon of culture was dead long before the 1960s. Seriously, how many people in the United States and the West studies Latin and Greek and read the classics before the 1960s? Very few percentage and number wise. What the 1960s did was deliver a killing blow to something that was already dying.

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            • One of my favorite scenes in Tombstone, where Doc Holiday (Val Kilmer) meets Johnny Ringo (Michael Biehn), where Doc drawls, “Dahlin’ I think I hate this man” then says something in Latin; Ringo spits out a response also in Latin, to which Doc replies- “An educated man! Now I know I hate him.”

              In that age, an educated man was one who could speak Latin and Greek and converse about Plato, even if he knew nothing about the technical aspects of business.
              Running of the world was assumed to be the province of the cultural elite, while the mechanics were left to the plebes.

              I wonder if it wasn’t the combination of the Progressive era, the New Deal, and the experience of WWII that established the practical dominance of the technocrat over the cultural elite.

              Twain’s Connecticut Yankee, written in 1889 at the dawn of the Progressive era sort of makes that case, where the engineer who can build contraptions is the hero. This was followed in real life by the titans of industry like Ford and Edison.

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              • During the 19th century, there were furious debates on whether education should focus on the Classics or on more modern subjects in the West, particularly in Europe. The newer Western nations like Canada, the US, and Australia tended to pursue a more practical approach. This was mainly out of necessity and an early start in mass education.

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    • The older couple were high-powered lawyers but they also had a lot of cultural and history knowledge. They enjoyed reading about history and art and culture for pleasure.

      Time to check those assumptions. How do you know that the older couple, when they were as young as all the kids on the trip, were not just as ignorant at that age? Perhaps they once long ago went on a trip, and were in a tour group with some older folks who infected them with a desire to learn more about art and history?

      Who knows, in 20 years, those ignorant kids might be the ones being all knowledgeable and shit. You assume way too much.

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      • It is anecdotal but from my rough view via reading and conversation, I do think that there was more of a cache in the 1960s and 70s for knowing about International movies or what he call Arthouse movies. Granted a lot of the stuff we consider classic today was brand new then.

        But I do think the audience has declined for newer arthouse too.

        I went to see a movie called Our Little Sister a few years ago by a Japanese director. This movie was based on a manga but in America, the audience was pure arthouse of older Americans and me.

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        • Well I see your point Saul, I think the truth is, a lot of people have stopped going to the movies, unless it’s a high budget spectacular. I have no doubt many people saw the movie you’re talking about…three months later when it was in a Redbox…or six months later when it was on a streaming service.

          Right now, we’re in a situation where oddly, thanks to Amazon, Netflix, etc. more money than ever is being pumped into the low end of movies, but instead of 100 $25 million upper tier arthouse films that actually get semi- national distribution, we’re getting 500 $5 million films that will be largely on see on Netflix or other streaming services, if they get a theater release at all.

          The positives to this is a more diverse range of stories are being told, while the downside is that a lot less chance of any of those movies becoming the Pulp Fiction or whatever of it’s year.

          I guess my larger point is – there’s probably just as many people seeing “arthouse” films than there were in 1975, but there’s so many more “arthouse” films that individual people are less likely to see a specific movie. Same thing w/ art & novels.

          Even on the high end of culture, there is no monoculture anymore.

          EDIT – Also, you’re missing the rise of prestige TV in all this – 20 years ago, Sharp Objects, for example, would’ve been a 150 minute Oscar-bait movie released in November. Now, it’s a premium TV series.

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        • Again, you still assume too much. Are art house films or literary fiction, or classical art or historical knowledge, the only the only marks of an affinity for cultural cachet? Maybe the people you think are clueless are merely clueless about that topic, but well versed in music, or graphic design? Or maybe they don’t know much about the history local to your trip, but are well versed in the history and culture of another part of the world.

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          • This is true. Some people choose trips based on parts of the world they have studied and want to see. Some have an opportunity for a trip and pick up books about a place before they travel there. Others go somewhere that sounds interesting, see what fascinates them about the place, and *then* go find books or movies or art about that. Some combine a little of all of those.

            I had studied a little Japanese culture and history before a trip to Japan, but after we had been there a couple weeks I found so much more I hadn’t known and wanted to learn that I absolutely binged when I got back.

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    • I do think that for generations before Gen X, there were expectations at a modicum of cultural knowledge and literacy as required for professional success. You were expected to care about such things.

      Whose culture? Whose books?

      The world of knowledge has gotten MUCH larger, we don’t have more time.

      Since the 1960’s we’ve “invented” computers, the internet, and black(etc) history, none of which would have been part of that “modicum”.

      Various groups have also gotten organized enough to insist their flavor be taught… but if everything is important, then nothing is.

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